Norways population consists of about 5 million people. Our largest city, which is also our capital is Oslo – where aproximately 640.000 people live. In the 1800s over 800.000 Norwegians emigrated to the USA. Minnesota, Dakota, Iowa and other parts of the midwest still have a strong Norwegian ancestry (just look at the Coen brothers’ “Fargo”).
The number of americans immigrating to Norway is about 7500 people. In total. But out of those 7500 we’ve gotten a few really good musicians. Both Robert Smith- Hald, whom I wrote about in this piece, and lately Robert Moses – originally from Chicago, now living in Norway.
Moses visited Norway as a part of a bicycle-camping trip. I’m guessing he didn’t realise Norway is largely mountains, and that most roads go uphill. (at least if feels that way when you ride a bike here). For some reason or another, he ended his London-residency to move to Norway, and settled down in Oslo
Robert Moses played in bands back home in Chicago, but hadn’t been active for years when he startet playing again with a bunch of Norways finest musicans.
And his new LP, Robert Moses & The Harmony Crusaders – Self Developing Country has turned into a pure gem, and is one of the best Norwegian albums released last year.
His lyrics are good, at times even very strong. The melodies grabs hold of you, and the musicians are some of the best musicians you can find around these (or any) parts.
Freddy Holm plays anything that has strings attached, Ketil Kielland Lund takes care of the keys, accordion and the trumpet, Terje Støldal on bass and Glenn-Vidar Solheim on drums makes sure the rythm section is as tight as they come. Guest singer on a few of the tracks is Lucky Lips-vocalist Malin Pettersen.
And off course we have Rober Moses’ voice. Which is the most important instrument on this album. His countryvibrato is nothing short of haunting. And when he combines it with Malin Pettersens voice, magic happens. It’s hypnotical in all it’s intensity. It brings out emotions in anyone who takes time to listen, and I think you should give this a listen…
«There’s A Game We Play», «Take A Look At My Heart, Today», «I’ll Cross The Line» and the majestic «When It’s Done» are a few of my favourites on this album, which takes you on a roller-coaster ride between dark and light, hot and cold and just tears at your soul to be allowed in on the inside. The songwriting is strong, the melodies won’t let you rest until you let them in – and the album is perfect for both dark and light days, depending on your mood.
That feeling when you discover a new band for the first time, falls in love with their sound and songs, and actually spend time fearing the fact that they’ll go their separate ways before they fulfil their obvious potential. That feeling is a huge part of the reason why we spend our free time listening to crappy music sent our way, in search for those rare gems that we hope others will appreciate just as much.
The Far West fell into my lap sometime in 2011, and I fell hard for their debut album The Far West, with their mix of traditional country and real alt.country the way Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown did it way back when. The band started out as a obscure craigslist-ad, only consisting of a link to a Waylon Jennings-video. The newly assembled five-piece recorded their first album at a American Legion Hall, while the bar was open, and it sounds so fresh and still so vintage.
Since then, the band has changed line-up, replacing pedal-steel maestro Erik Kristiansen who was vital to the sound on the first album, and instead keyboard-virtuoso James Williamson become a vital part of their new sound.
Where they earlier sounded like Gram Parsons and Waylon Jennings mixed with the countrier side of early Son Volt, they now sound more like Waylon Jennings crossed with the more rocking side of Son Volt, with a touch of Uncle Tupelo, Bottle Rockets and generous amounts of The Backsliders.
And they have somehow managed to sound even BETTER then before.
Williamson really shines on this album, where his contibutions on the electric piano and the organ are some of my favourite parts. But the band sounds really great. So tight and together, like a BAND. But as good as they are, without Lee Briantes vocals they would have been just another band. With his exceptional voice, he lifts this band beyond that of being “just another band”, and his voice really suits their music.
The songs are written by Briante and bassplayer Robert Black, the two original founders of The Far West. And where other bands with two songwriters tend to get distinctively different types of songs, their songs seem to merge together, without losing their style in the process.
“Any Day Now” opens with Briantes song “On The Road”, where he takes a look at L.A. and Hollywood, seen from an outsiders perspective. After forming the band, Briante moved from Hudson Valley to L.A, where the band now recides.
Everyone’s chasing a ghost Everyone’s chasing a dream Everyone’s the next Monroe Everyone’s the next James Dean It’s a long, long, long dusty road And we all are travelling alone
He writes about Hudson Valley in the song “Hudson Valley, and talks about his old homeplace with longing in his voice, while Williamsons saloon-sounding piano sets the mood.
I was standing at the station watching trains leave all day long
Black also talks about places from his youth, when he in “Wichita” talks about a place and a time that meant a lot to him, while the band as a whole channels The Jayhawks with steady perfection.
Old 97’s and The Backsliders are obvious inspirations to the kick-ass “The Bright Side”, where Black basically just tells the world to fuck off, while Bakkers guitarsolo is as delicious as they come.
There’s a couple of beautiful ballads here too, especially the “could-have-been-plucked-from-Claptons-Slowhand”-ish “These Arms Will be Empty”, and “She’s Gonna Leave Him Too”, which is heartbreaking it’s own brilliance. And let’s not forget the closing song “Across The Bend”, which is just the kind of song that I recommend hearing while sitting down, as it will make your knees weak in it’s beauty.
Looking at this from the outside of the US, this just feels like a dusty trip through the US, meeting people along the way, everyone with a story to tell – sad or happy. And The Far West just draws from a rich history of music, where their sound which is so solidly anchored in genuine and original alt.country, still sounds like what you would guess Americana should sound like – if you just heard the name of the genre.
Fuck, I LOVE this album! I’m calling it Essential Listening.
“You can’t hide when they all know your name” Rod Picott sings in “Where No One Knows My Name”, the pivotal song on his new album Hang Your Hopes On Crooked Nail.
It’s his ninth album, and after spending a lot of time with his old albums last fall, I think it’s his best to date. I loved his last album Welding Burns, but I just can’t stop playing this album and “Where No One Knows My Name”. Now remember; you’re all getting a couple of huge treats in the coming months: Otis Gibbs has made his best album to date, and his songs are better then ever (if that was even possible) – it probably drops this summer. The Mighty Truckers have made their best rock-album since The Dirty South – where Cooley at times outshine Patterson as a songwriter.. And among these awsome goodiebags – Rod Picott has written a bunch of songs that’ll stand up to any of those albums any day.
He visited Norway last year, with his “Rod Picotts Circus of Misery and Heartbreak”-tour, and charmed the socks of the audiences he met over here. Even though many of the songs are about hardships, and both personal and social downfall – he balances that with a wit and sense of humor between the songs that kept me laughing all throughout the show.
Rod Picott grew up with Slaid Cleaves, and has written a bunch of songs with his old friend. Picott being the strongest songwriter of the two, in my humble opinion. He’s written songs with Fred Eaglesmith – and live he tells the story of when Eaglesmith fell out of his car because of a defective door. And his previous albums features his then-girlfriend Amanda Shires on the fiddle.
This album features – among others; Dave Coleman from The Coal Men on guitars, and RS Field on piano. Guitars and piano is also contributed by Joe Pisapia.
And the star of the album are Rod Picotts songs. His last album Welding Burns had a common thread running through it – songs about hard work. Seen through the working man, welding and sheetrock hanging.
Then it’s this album, and it has a lot of heartbreak on it. It kicks of with “You’re Not Missing Anything”, a song that captures the feelings of intense loss after a break-up with a significant other. Picott mediates the narrators feeling of emptieness, but without bitterness or bad wishes towards the leaving party. It’s just a tale of how hard it is to handle the fact of someone leaving. But Pitcott does it so eloquently it’s a treat to witness, even though the lyrics are sad enough to make you want to go hide in a dark corner to cry in peace…
Two coffee cups, here beside the bed. I made too much again, sometimes I forget. You left some things, I’ll just keep them here. I’ve got a little place, for souvenires.
You’re not missing anything, baby now just laughing and crying. You’re not missing anything, baby now just living and dying.
There are more broken hearts in “Dreams”, later on – complete with a Jeff Lynne’sk guitar that soars above the song and gives it a mood that sets it apart. And then there’s those words again. Those haunting words that make you hang on to them and try to decipher whatever deeper meaning they might have, in hope to avoid similar situations…
You can’t hold on to what you never had, But you still dream, when you close your eyes. Trains howl all night long, your broken heart still beats, and echo repeats. And you still dream…
When I first got this album, back when Picott toured Europe last fall and released it over here, I put it on and didn’t really pay attention – just playing in the background. And suddenly I caught myself thinking “How the HELL did he get away with putting an unreleased Johnny Cash-recording on his album??”. That was “Mobile Home” – where he starts off sounding like Johnny Cash in his American Recordings phase for the first verse.
Complete that with a lyric that hits every nail on the head, crosses all the t’s and dots all the i’s, you’ve got a song that’s impossible to get away from.
The narrator in the song has bought himself a mobile home, and even if it seemingly starts off well, it looks like he can’t quite get comfortable…
Well we pulled up the carpet and linoleum, we drank some beer and had some fun Painted the plastic, made it look like wood It took all weekend, but it looked pretty good. No trees, no yard where the dog can bark Just a home on wheels, at the trailer park.
The other people at the trailer park seems slightly annoying, and his neighbour plays along to Aerosmith on his fake Les Paul all day. The instrumentation on the song is brilliant in it’s simplicity, and gives the words enough room to breathe.
Ain’t it strange it’s called a mobile home. You just sit there, you ain’t going anywhere.
The Circus of Misery and Heartbreak continue on “Memory” – which reminds me of english folk-singers from the 70’s, and on “All The Broken Parts” a harmonica sets the mood for the song. Even though the majority of the lyrics are about loss in some way or another, the album never gets depressing or shows any negativty. Picott is a careful observer, and leaves room for anyone to interpret the backstories and endings.
One of the best examples of his craft hides behind the simple title “Milkweed”, where the loss of a close-but-perhaps-not-so-close person is the basis for a song where the song works out almost like a painting. The details are what makes the song. He paints his characters vividly, but only through items in the house and the persons actions. It quite a brilliant little gem, that one…
Who’s gonna cut the milkweed now that he’s gone? Who’s gonna cut the dead trees down? Who’s gonna sing that gospel song, and get the words all wrong?
Get this album! Settle down for the evening, and just listen. You won’t be sorry. This IS Essential Listening.
Escalator has turned out to be a catchy collection of real American rock. Singer and main songwriter Dave Coleman adds enough catchy guitarplaying to this album to ensure it sticks in your head after a song finishes. Combined with really good lyrics and melodies that nestles perfectly in your ear, The Coal Men has gathered inspiration from what once worked with the stadium-rock acts, combined it with elements from heartland-rock, some blues and bluesrock, a touch of americana and rootsmusic – lightly sprinkled with catchy poptunes, and as a whole it just plainly works!
I “found” Dave Coleman while doing research for Stephen Simmons album “Hearsay”, where Coleman played gitar so well I had do internet him after a while. What I found was the Todd Snider endorsed band The Coal Men – and their new album being released on Sniders label Aimless Records. Let’s just say they got friends in high places, and Sniders endorsement and their touring together will bring new ears to this band.
Except for that one song on here that sounds too much like that worlds-second-worst band Coldplay, this collection of tunes is one of the more perfect albums to put on in your car and just drive, drive, drive.
Songs like “Last Goodbye”, “Role Model” and the fucking awsome “Broken Heartland” are all songs that will keep you company on those long hauls. But there are lovely ballads here too, especially “Tennessee” and “Old Friends” – and then they surprise us a bit with a different soundscape in “Sanity” – where bluesy Tom Waits meets jazzy New Orleans.
If there were any justice in the world, “The Fall” would qualify for immediate superhit-status, through it’s catchy (yeah – I know I use that word a lot here… but it IS) melody that just sticks to your mind like honey to Winnie The Pooh. But with that said, what could easily have become some commercial crap-pot with clichés dumped upon you in heaps – Dave Coleman elegantly avoids that deathtrap through his words. There are no clichés for commercial radio here. He writes elegantly with insight and experience, which raises this above all that other crap out there…
The best example is “Broken Heartland”, where he explores small-town America and how towns disappear like a puddle of water in a hot desert…
Milwaukee River runs throught this Midwest town Tracks are torn up rusted, never get run down Dealership sign just fades with time ‘Been twenty years since a sale’s been made
It’s a broken heart land She’s a broken heartland This broken heart land is my home
He continues the story of that Heartland town in the song “Sanity”, by telling us a story about a man in one of those small towns, and how life isn’t quite what it used to be.
Driving the car that a bank really owns To a job where work for hours on a phone No sir I’m not a very good salesman you see But, I try to smile for a little bit of sanity
Another seven days ‘til I get paid Then some other chump gonna come and take it all away
I’ll just leave you with one last example of Colemans writing, where he talks about the importance of real friendship…
One call away, they don’t think, They don’t worry, about a good night sleep Won’t say a word, They’re just glad, to get you home
Fair weather friends aren’t your real friends They’ll let you down – They’ve let me down But old friends they’re your old friends They’ll put up with you they’ll shut up for you They’re your old friends
They’re in the pictures, that you own In all your memories, when you’re alone, Part of them, Piece by piece, They’re a part of you
Back in October of 2012 I wrote about a book and an album that had caught my attention, called “Fresh Water In The Salton Sea”. Since then I’ve read said book several times, and lent it out to a good number of people who have all really enjoyed Drew Kennedys stories from the road.
When he announced a Kickstarter campaign to record his next album, I was an easy target. And even if I’ve cut down on my Kickstarter-contributions after several disappointments, I knew Drew wouldn’t disappoint me. He spent our money well, and crafted one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.
“I’m not big on preaching’ God knows we get enough of that now. But you can’t control the seasons, Leaves fall down” (Age and color)
He workes tirelessly to develop his craft as a songwriter, and on “Wide Listener” there are no weak spots. The album has turned out to be a real goodybag filled with fantastic words and beautiful melodies.
The song that kicks it all off, “Age and Color” is a lot more hard-kicking than I’ve heard from Kennedy before, and it’s one of the best songs of the year. It’s fresh, it’s catchy, and the lyrics are as strong as you could ever wish for.
There’s a row of talented musicians on this album, and they’ve played around with everything from a banjo and a pedal steel, to a cello, violin and an Hammond B3 and even a Rhodes. Complete that with crisp harmonies and a very dedicated production, that give the words all the room they need to work out – this looks like an album I’ll keep spinning.
Next to his songwriting, Drew Kennedys strongest point is his voice. It’s one of the most comfortable voices in the business, and the power and devotion in which he delivers the vocals is the albums absolute strongest point. You get a mix of anything from swinging americana to flowing folkrock and a tough countrygroove – and the result is an album that works best as a good old-fashioned ALBUM.
“Some things. Built to last. Your memory. Good carpentry.” (Good carpentry)
Picking favourites is hard, the whole is so strong and filled with quality. The storytelling is intriguing, the slow songs feels like floating along on a quiet river, and the rockers are riveting and makes is hard to sit still.
Just check it out, it’s too mellow for those who wants to feel like they get their balls kick up to their teeth when listening to music – but if you like words and songwriting – this is the place to be!